In less than 24 hours the Dominican Republic will begin what is euphemistically being called a “social cleaning.” In this process of state housekeeping, the government will deport over 100,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent in effort to tidy of their immigration rolls. The criteria for this is unjust and appalling, ranging from targeting those with Haitian-sounding names and dark-skin to picking out women who look like prostitutes and considering those to be among the number.
According to an aid worker whose account was published in The Nation, the following is occurring:
“…in the barrios, police trucks have come through to conduct limpiezas (“cleanings,” with the adjective implied: “social cleanings”): “The detained tend to range from intoxicated persons to suspected prostitutes, but are disproportionately Haitian or dark-skinned Dominicans with Haitian facial features. These could just be guys drinking and playing dominos or women standing on street corners. More often, though, they tend to be young men with Haitian features and darker skin. The police usually—usually—detain them for a night and then let them go with a warning.” But, he says, this stepped-up activity is preparation for June 16:
Given the common practice of nightly police sweeps, the government solicitation of passenger buses, the official declaration of intent to pass Law 169-14 without delay on June 16, and the general history of anti-Haitian abuses on the part of law enforcement and government authorities, it is reasonable to assume that the infrastructure is now in place for mass detention and deportation of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic. The general attitude among this vulnerable subpopulation is a mix of fear and resignation.”
The majority of those in danger of being deported are migrant workers who own businesses in DR but there are also families, women, and children who are at risk of being deported to Haiti. Some media sources have referred to the threatened population as “Haitians” but this is a misnomer because the people actually have no connection to Haiti—some having never visited the country—and thus they are being deported to become strangers in a strange land where there aren’t even enough resources for an influx of citizens.
Many are currently scrambling to gain legal residency before today’s 7pm deadline, but they are doing so in the midst of volumes of paperwork and understaffed offices. Even if they are able to get through the paperwork and the lines there are criteria they must meet such as proving that they arrived before October 2011. This becomes particularly challenging for those born in rural towns under the care of midwives which, in many cases, means they weren’t issued birth certificates. Immediately this puts many at a disadvantage and increases the risk that they will be deported from the only home they’ve known. One has to wonder if these criteria weren’t purposely established to ensure that many wouldn’t be able to secure their residency before the deadline.
Unfortunately, the current situation in the Dominican Republic is nothing new. It is only making good on an approximately 78-year tension that has existed in the Dominican Republic. It started with the 1937 Parsley Massacre which was carried out by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo who targeted Dominicans who were dark enough to be Haitian or who were unable to pronounce key words in Spanish. So what we are seeing today is a continuation of an old battle fueled by anti-Haitian sentiments. Discrimination is at the root of this and the “social cleansing,” which is actually more akin to ethnic cleansing, is the government trying to create some semblance of ethnic purity on the island.
Furthermore, this is not just a battle on the island but America has a role in this. In an interview in the Americas Quarterly, Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat said,
One thing that is not mentioned as often is that early in the 20th century (1915 to 1934 for Haiti, and 1916 to 1924 for the D.R.), the entire island was occupied by the United States. Then again, in the D.R. in the 1960s, Trujillo — who not only organized a massacre, but wiped out several generations of Dominican families — was trained during the occupation by U.S. Marines and put in power when they pulled out. Same with the Haitian army that terrorized Haitians for generations. It is not a matter of blame but a matter of historical record.
Thus the discrimination currently taking place is a strongly-rooted practice in not recognizing Dominicans of Haitian descent as full Dominicans.
According to sources, the government has procured 12 buses and opened processing centers at the border to expedite the process of deporting the Dominicans of Haitian descent.
So what can we do?
1. The Dominican Republic is a hot tourist destination for many black and brown people. Thus the first thing that any of us can do is ensure that our fellow brothers and sisters with plans to vacation in the region this summer cancel their trips immediately and boycott. We must choose our people’s freedom over our leisure and to continue to pump money into DR’s economy is to suggest that we don’t care about their lives.
2. Sign the petition to pressure the Dominican Republic government to stop the “cleaning” they have planned in the next few days.
3. Encourage the Human Rights Watch to become more vocal about this situation, particularly through their director, Ken Roth, a prolific social media user who hasn’t addressed the situation much–only one tweet of a NY Times story and the Human Rights Watch homepage has nothing about the situation on their homepage. Tweet the @hrw (Human Rights Watch) : “Why are you ignoring Haitians in DR? Stop the exile!” Share the same tweet with both the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses. Call HRW, follow link http://m.hrw.org/contact-us
4. We can continue to complain about what mainstream news media isn’t covering or we can just cover it ourselves. Let’s stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic and remember that, we too, share in their struggle. Keep spreading this news on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the word out.
The Bloody Origins of the Dominican Republic’s ethnic “cleansing” of Haitians
Five Things to Know About the “Cleaning” of Haitians from the DR
Why You Should Boycott the Dominican Republic
We Regret to Inform You that in Four Days You and Your Family Will Be Deported to Haiti
The Dominican Republic and Haiti: A Shared View from the Diaspora
This year we observe the tenth anniversary of September 11th, 2001, a day in our nation’s history that changed everything. Before 9/11, most Americans had never heard of Osama Ben Laden or the Taliban, nor could they easily point to Iraq or Afghanistan on a map. The event was indeed a game changer, not only for the United States and the West, but for the entire world. The tightening of security in air travel, the creation of Homeland Security, and the forced collaboration of once competing agencies like the FBI, CIA, and local agencies are but the tip of the iceberg. Not to mention the “military action” we initiated with other members of the global community in this ongoing “war on terrorism.” The West received a rude awakening: “You cannot continue your dealings with the Arab nations with a ‘business as usual’ attitude.”
Such was the case when a 7.2 earthquake struck the island of Haiti a year ago in January, tragically setting off what some have called the “Haitian 9/11.” Before the earthquake most Americans couldn’t point to Haiti on the map, but the most devastating earthquake in the small nation’s history killed nearly 250,000 people and left more than a million homeless, and countless scores maimed and injured. Like our 9/11, Haiti’s earthquake was a game changer for the hundreds of missions and relief agencies and other NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) on the ground in Port-au-Prince.
NATION IN NEED: Haitians wait for the distribution of emergency supplies following the 2010 earthquake. Photo from Wikipedia.
One need only take a brief scan of the media outlets to hear pundits express their shock as to how little has been done in the past year in terms of relief, aid, and development. As Reuters reports, “despite billions of dollars of donations and aid pledges from some of the world’s most powerful leaders, a 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping presence and an army of relief workers, the debris that clogs much of the city and a million homeless people living in tents are blunt testimony to the unfinished recovery task. Meanwhile, the nation’s cholera epidemic, which began this past fall, continues to run rampant.” Oxfam, the British based charity organization, offered more staggering statistics and an even sharper critique of the relief efforts, saying that various projects had been crippled by lack of leadership and cooperation from the Haitian government and the international community.
“At the anniversary of the earthquake, close to one million Haitians are reportedly still displaced. Less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed,” the report said. According to a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey of 60 major relief organizations, the same dire facts were revealed, stating that of the more than $1.4 billion donated to Haitian relief through such organizations, by Americans alone, only 38 percent of these funds have actually been used to provide recovery aid. But these statistics are faceless until you hear the voices of the Haitians themselves. Mackenzy Jean-Francois, a 25-year-old university student in Port-au-Prince is quoted as saying, “When you go around the country and through the tents (in the survivors’ camps) and you look at the situation people are facing one year after the disaster, it’s hard to see much sign of how that money was spent.”
This seems to be the question at hand, “Where has all the aid money gone?” However, I think this raises an even deeper question: How is it that, prior to the earthquake, thousands of aid organizations from the international community operated in Haiti for decades, spent billions of dollars, and yet failed to transform an island the size of Maryland into a prosperous nation? Despite the best of intentions, Haiti remained the poorest country in the Western hemisphere even before the earthquake.
HOMEGROWN RELIEF: While international efforts received significant media coverage, much of the rescue effort was conducted by Haitians themselves. Photo from Wikipedia.
Before our 9/11, it was commonplace in the U.S. to witness, even in our movies and television shows, the competition and lack of coordination and cooperation between agencies who existed to “protect and serve” — CIA, FBI, and local authorities. It seems to the average citizen, because of the ongoing threat of terrorism, that this has ceased to a large degree. However, it appears in general that “business as usual” continues in Haiti; insufficient coordination, lack of cooperation, exclusion of indigenous input, focus on quick fixes, it is with good reason that Haiti earned the moniker of the “Republic of NGOs.” “It seemed the more NGOs that came to Haiti, the worse off Haiti became,” said Pastor Louis Pierre, a Haitian expatriate living in Chicago. Indeed, Timothy T. Schwartz’s 2008 book, Travesty in Haiti, takes a graphic look into the world of food aid, orphanages, Christian missions, and fraud that is, quite frankly, frightening.
Of course, not all aid work is intended to harm or wreak havoc on those they serve, but sometimes our good intentions can create a “pathway to hell” for those whom we meant to help. Fonkoze.org, Haiti’s alternative bank for the organized poor, and CHFinternational.org, whose goal is to “to build the capacity of local partners, governments and the private sector to create communities who are economically, socially, and environmentally self-sufficient,” are but two NGO’s that need to be modeled. Empowerment, sustainability, and self-sufficiency appear to be the very things they are accomplishing. Every organization will “say” the latter is their goal, but outcomes are what tell us the truth. How many times have we personally made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and at the end of the year found out that we actually gained? Goals and outcomes are not the same.
When completely unexpected catastrophic events occur, the world reacts in horror, chaos unfolds, and there is a generous outpouring sympathy, not to mention cash. Will we continue to donate funds to aid organizations for whom it is in their best interest to solely “feed” people in crises rather than to, at some point, equip them to feed themselves? Furthermore, will we support “development” organizations that use funds to exclusively fund American-owned and operated “contractors” so as to keep the funds flowing through their organizations and to their own, while under-developing the communities they are claiming to help?
By not calling them to accountability, we are only continuing a state of dependency whereby the beneficiaries are never equipped to build, sustain, or grow their communities and economies independent of Western oversight and funding. This was the state of Haiti before the earthquake, and it seems to be the case a year after this tragedy.
Is development about the nation being saved, or about the development of the organizations and corporations that are ostensibly there to serve? To many of us watching, it seems they are serving themselves rather than those who are suffering. Just as our extended “war on terror” has dragged on with no assurance that there will ever be victory, the prolonged aide to Haiti that we foresee must also have a definitive exit plan, one in which this nation is not further crippled but truly “aided” and “developed.”
Related Articles: “Pat Robertson Was Right” and “Reunited by Earthquake.”